The Feminine Mystique was one of the most influential books in convincing middle-class American women during the 1960’s that their personal identity as housewives and mothers had not provided them with full and meaningful lives. Herself one of the women whose plight she described, Betty Friedan examined “the problem that has no name” in a series of insightful chapters that set forth the many ways in which women felt frustrated and repressed.
The book grew out of Friedan’s search for a more significant existence. A writer whose professional career had taken second place to a husband and family, she surveyed the condition of women at the end of the 1950’s and then found that women’s magazines for which she wrote were reluctant to publish her findings. The magazines did not want details about the anxieties and tensions of middle-class, suburban women. She decided to write a book that could explore the issue of women’s identity in greater depth. The Feminine Mystique grew from her determination to locate the deeper causes of the frustration that she and women like her felt. As she researched how society directed women into child rearing and family to the exclusion of their own talents and abilities, she became convinced that the ideology of accepting such roles accounted for much of the problem.
The book proved to be a significant catalyst for many women in the 1960’s. Friedan’s powerful description of how her...
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